What Can I Do About Auditory Processing Problems?

Published with Permission

Written by Dianne Craft, MA, CNHP



“When my son reads, he struggles so much because he has to sound out the same word over and over again in the story.”

“When I give my son three simple directions, he only does one . . . if that! I’m sure he has an auditory processing problem.”

How the Brain Processes

What is happening when bright, hardworking kids and teenagers have to expend so much energy to process things auditorily? For all of us, the left auditory brain hemisphere is supposed to learn new material and then transfer it to the right visual hemisphere for long-term storage and easy retrieval. When a child or teenager is struggling in this area, the hemispheres are not communicating as they should, as if there is a “disconnect.”

What Are the Symptoms of an Auditory Processing Problem?

When a child is experiencing a significant auditory processing problem, the child/teenager almost always has difficulty with these areas of learning:  

1. Reading

• Sight Words: “Word retrieval” is difficult. Child tries to sound out all sight words. For example, what = w-h-a-t.

• Difficulty learning names of alphabet letters when younger.

• Phonics: Phonics “rules” (think auditory input) don’t stick, even with games. Sounds out same word over and over again while reading. Parents are often on their third or fourth phonics program.

• Reads “extra” letters in a word that aren’t there, such as an n or r. Often two or more years below grade level in reading when older.

2. Spelling

• Words can’t be read by anyone else because they are not even spelled phonetically.

• Leaves out consonants and whole syllables, not just vowels, which are tricky for everyone.

• Spells word differently each time.

• Has no “picture” of the word in his head.

3. Math

• Math facts difficult to learn even with music, games, “raps,” and much repetition.

• Skip counting or remembering the order of months of the year is hard.

• Mental math is difficult (hearing his own silent voice).

4. Memory

• Because most curricula rely on auditory teaching methods (reading, worksheets, listening to lecture), child appears to have memory issues.

• A child who is using too much energy for focus/attention can also appear to have a poor memory.

5. Tongue Twisters

• Ordering sounds is hard, so child says words like sundenly, shuspicious, and mazagine.

• Child avoids saying harder words in conversation.

6. Understanding Verbal Directions

• When a child asks for directions to be repeated much, or says “What?” a lot, it can be a focus/attention issue or an auditory issue, if many other symptoms are present.

Not all of these symptoms need to be present to have an auditory processing dysfunction. The more severe the issue, the more symptoms will be present.

What to Do?

Homeschooling parents have found that they can make learning easier for their child by doing two steps at home:  bypassing and correcting. The child’s difficulty with auditory processing of material can be bypassed by using more visual, right-brain teaching methods. Let’s look at some of these successful methods that parents use at home to help their child “get in touch with the smart part of themselves.”

1. Reading

• Right-Brain Sight Words

This teaching technique involves imbedding the picture of the word onto the letters. Very struggling readers love this method because they can immediately remember the words to read and spell.1 These words can be made at home . . . no expense!

• Right-Brain Phonics

For a struggling reader, an intensive phonics program is necessary. Because of the auditory processing problem, games, workbooks, writing, or black and white cards often don’t transfer to easier reading. For my students in my Resource Reading class in school, I created a Right-Brain Phonics reading method, which uses the imbedding process. Using this method, I was able to see a two-year growth in my students, aged 7–14, in one year.2

• Other Intensive Phonics Programs

In my experience with struggling readers who have a fairly severe auditory processing problem, I have found only five programs that seem to work well. If you would like a list of these five programs and their descriptions, just email me, craft@ecentral.com, and put “Alternative Phonics Programs” in the subject line.

2. Spelling

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